Methamphetamine is a particularly addictive drug, characterized by intense cravings that can easily surpass those for other drugs or even alcohol. Like other stimulants that create a euphoric “high,” methamphetamine leads users to want more and more of the drug so that its effects can be sustained for as long as possible, yet the human body’s tolerance for its narcotic effects develop relatively quickly. When methamphetamine is suddenly absent from the body of a regular user, therefore, the intense desire and perceived need for the drug can be overwhelming and extremely difficult to resist.
When a methamphetamine addict stops taking the drug, the levels of dopamine in the brain drop quickly. In the case of the long-time methamphetamine user there are also less dopamine receptors available, so it’s not surprising that many addicts coming down off the drug experience a state of anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure. And sadly, it can take as long as two years of being off the drug for the dopamine functions of the addict to return to a normal state. Relapse into methamphetamine use is, therefore, an unfortunate reality for many addicts who simply can’t find a suitable substitute for the euphoria the drug provides.
The severity of methamphetamine withdrawal varies according to many different factors, including how long the users has been taking the drug and how much they typically consume; the user’s age (the older an addict is, the more difficult withdrawal tends to be); the state of the user’s mental and physical health before methamphetamine abuse began; and even the quality of the methamphetamine that was being taken.
Addiction counselors and researchers note that withdrawal from methamphetamine abuse lasts longer and is, in many cases, far more severe than even withdrawal from cocaine. The most common symptoms of methamphetamine withdrawal are excessive sleeping and extreme lethargy; an increased appetite (which should be expected as methamphetamine naturally decreases appetite when it’s being taken); heightened anxiety; psychosis (which can be severe especially if the drug has been taken regularly for months or years); varying levels of paranoia; and profound depression.
Generally, initial withdrawal from methamphetamine is viewed in two phases. The first phase is most intense during the first 24-hours after the addict’s last dose, and becomes gradually less intense over the next two weeks. The second phase is reported to be easier to cope with physically and lasts about another two to three weeks. However, after the initial physical symptoms of withdrawal have passed, it’s vital that the addict seeks drug counseling and rehabilitation therapy immediately, as the psychological problems associated with methamphetamine withdrawal can be difficult to overcome alone.